31 October 2009

All Hallows Eve, prayers and reflections

Prayers (Collects) from the "Service for All Hallow's Eve" Book of Occasional Services:
Almighty and everliving God, you have made all things in your wisdom and established the boundaries of life and death:  Grant that we may obey your voice in this world, and in the world to come may enjoy that rest and peace which you have appointed for your people; through Jesus Christ who is Resurrection and Life, and who lives and reigns for ever and ever.  Amen.
You, O Lord have made us from the dust of the earth and to dust our bodies shall return; yet you have also breathed your Spirit upon us and called us to new life in you:  Have mercy upon us, now and at the hour of our death; through Jesus Christ, our mediator and advocate.  Amen.
O God, you have called your people to your service from age to age.  Do not give us over to death, but raise us up to serve you, to praise you, and to glorify your holy Name; through Jesus Christ our Lord.  Amen.
O most merciful and mighty God, your son Jesus Christ was born of the Blessed Virgin Mary to bring us salvation and to establish your kingdom on earth:  Grant that Michael and all your angels may defend your people against Satan and every evil foe, and that at the last we may come to that heavenly country, where your sants for ever sing your praise; through Jesus Christ our Lord.  Amen.

Within our Christian Tradition, this weekend is one of the "big holidays" of All Saints Day.  In some sense, this holiday recognizes All Hallows Eve, All Saints Day, and All Souls Day.  On the 31st of October, we celebrate the "Eve" of All Saints and within the tradition it has been a day to recognize that there are often "thin places" and "thin times" between the living and the dead.  The tradition of dressing up as scary figures has its roots in the idea that on this eve of All Saints people would dress up to scare away any minor dark spirits that might be thought to be wandering around.  The reality is that the power of God and the victory of Christ obliterates and makes insignificant any minor devilish spirits in the world.  God's goodness and Christ's work and the Holy Spirit's presence are all enough to drive away even the thought of these minor demons.  Dressing up in silly and scary costumes recognizes the fact that God has secured the victory.

All Saints Day is the day when we recognize all the saints and pray that we might join in the heavenly banquet, so that "we may come to that heavenly country where your saints for ever sing" the praises of God.  Following All Saints Day is All Souls Day, the commemoration of the faithful departed, when the church has traditionally prayed for those who have died over the course of the last year, praying for their entry into that heavenly country.  This day is also celebrates as the Dia de los Muertes, "Day of the Dead" and there are some incredible festivals and celebrations in Hispanic cultures.  Lately, in many churches, this recognition of the "saints" who have died in the last year has moved into the Sunday service of All Saints, and we can recognize all the saints who have gone on before us.

But, today is All Hallows Eve when we have fun dressing up, recognizing the power of God over any other powers in the world, celebrating that victory and goodness.

~The Rev. Peter M. Carey

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